An update on the BB&T-SunTrust deal; “no light” between King, Rogers

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One of the biggest business stories of 2019 in North Carolina is the pending $66 billion merger of Winston-Salem-based BB&T and Atlanta-based SunTrust Banks Inc., which will result in the new Truist Financial, headquartered in downtown Charlotte. It is expected to be completed either by the end of the year, or shortly thereafter, resulting in the nation’s sixth-largest bank with $440 billion in assets.

BB&T CEO Kelly King, the deal’s catalyst and prospective leader of the combined organization, had some interesting things to day about the transaction during a quarterly earnings conference call last week:

  • Asked by an analyst of the impact of the move on Winston-Salem and Atlanta, King said not to worry. “Neither market loses.” He said those cities and Charlotte are “kind of the foundational anchor geographical locations [of Truist]. So don’t think about it as Truist being anchored to Charlotte, think about the Truist being anchored to three [cities.] … We are a community bank. We don’t think in terms of one market driving everything. We think of it being a coalition of a group of community banks coming together under the advantages of holding company. So, nobody loses, everybody wins.” 
  • While King has said the two banks need to merge to be able to stay competitive with larger institutions in terms of technology, he also says there’s nothing wrong with BB&T’s current systems. “We’re constantly rated as number one, two and three in the entire system  including all the big banks, despite what some people say.”
  • He rejected comments from competitors who expect disruption of the merger to prompt customers and employees to leave BB&T. “I notice there’s been a lot of conversation out in the market about everybody’s saying they’re taking all of our business, that’s not true, you just saw our growth numbers, we grew loans 6.5% and our deposits grew 5%. Our turnover rate is about the same or lower than it has been. So I would say to you that this is extraordinarily successful to this point.”
  • King expressed his concern that the U.S. “is having a dramatic increase in the gap in terms of economic inequality, and we don’t feel good about that, and we want to do our part. And I can tell you that on legal day one, Truist will be ready to be a leader in finding solutions to making life better.”
  • The companies have named about 75% of the combined companies’ leadership with about 8,000 people accepting positions. The rest will be completed by Nov. 1, he said.
  • King, 71, explained how he and SunTrust CEO Bill Rogers are working together to make sure the deal has no hiccups. The duo “have this working arrangement together where we talk about no light between us and so we’ve committed to each other very deeply that, if either one of us see any light, we get on the phone immediately, talk about it and we haven’t found any light yet. I’m not saying we won’t, but I don’t think we will.” Rogers is slated to succeed King as CEO in September 2021.
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